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New releases from Allen Ginsberg, Garbage, and Weaves 

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click to enlarge Allen Ginsberg
  • Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg

The Last Word on First Blues

Omnivore Recordings

File next to: William Burroughs, The Fugs, Lenny Bruce

Beat poet Allen Ginsberg is a towering figure in America's cultural history. Most of his recorded material is spoken word, but in 1983 he cut an album of music called First Blues. With ramshackle folk backing from pals including Bob Dylan, it was a kind of musical cousin to Dylan's own Basement Tapes. Ginsberg's songs are essentially musical versions of his poetry, and for the '80s, somewhat transgressive ("You Are My Dildo") and boundary-pushing ("Dope Fiend Blues"). The Last Word on First Blues, a lavishly packaged three-CD set, reproduces the double LP and appends an extra disc of related material from the same era, including a pair of tunes performed live at NYC's famed Folk City. Reissue producer Pat Thomas contributes an enlightening liner note essay that puts the entire package into its proper cultural and historical context. — BK

click to enlarge Garbage
  • Garbage

Garbage

Strange Little Birds

Stun Volume/BMG

File next to: PJ Harvey, Foo Fighters

Over the course of a 2012 reunion album and two subsequent EPs, frontwoman Shirley Manson gave us a second-generation Garbage with a darker and more literate approach, while still trying to retain the rebel spirit the band favored in the late '90s. On Strange Little Birds, she wraps her limited vocal range around minor-key arrangements, sounding at times almost like a '70s-era Leonard Cohen. Hints of familiar guitar riffs can be found in most of these 11 tracks, but what makes the best songs like "Empty" and "Blackout" stand out are the eerie disjointed noises layered between the melodies. Multi-tracking always was a Garbage specialty, but these noise-pop elements work particularly well. While Strange Little Birds is more mainstream than experimental, it's still an excellent showcase for Manson's mature musings on growing up in a world that's noisy, melancholic, and more than a little scary. — LW

click to enlarge Weaves
  • Weaves

Weaves

Weaves

Kanine Records

File next to: Fresh Snow, X-Ray Spex

Jasmyn Burke of Toronto's Weaves is sometimes dismissed as a wannabe Brittany Howard, in that both singers are declarative outsiders infiltrating straight-up rock. But in the case of Weaves, the riffs and arrangements of guitarist Morgan Waters owe more to art-punk pioneers X-Ray Spex or Essential Logic than to the warped Southern blues favored by Alabama Shakes. Aspects of Weaves' self-titled, full-length debut seem to carom off the bumpers in a wild pinball game, where the next rhythm or yelp from Burke may be difficult for anyone to anticipate. The result is not as dissonant as 21st-century soulmates like Deerhoof — in fact, tracks like "Coo Coo" are downright radio-friendly. If the band can keep the music from spinning out of control, Weaves could be a definitive competitor in the artier side of indie rock. Either way, this is a stunning album. — LW

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